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ChristianKl 21 June 2015 05:49 PM
64%

I think it's very clear that in this case social media drove created public pressure on the university.

I don't believe in the doctrine of thought crime. A professor that makes hiring decisions obviously has a duty to make those decisions without favoring a specific gender or race but apart from that he's free to believe whatever he wants to believe.

It quite cynic to call for thought crime while calling at the same time for open and rational debate. Those two goals aren't compatible. You have to decide which of the two you want.

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Alice 22 June 2015 06:32 AM
66%

I'm curious: from what you say here against thought crimes, do you believe that there is nothing a professor can say that should be grounds for firing? What if a professor expresses clearly anti-semitic, anti-Muslim, anti-black or anti-white views? Would you trust such a professor to teach students from diverse backgrounds? (and objectively evaluate them via grades, reference letters etc). What if a physics teacher in your daughter's high school says he doesn't believe girls can be good at physics. Do you think a person with such views is suitable for this position? What I'm saying is that in some, rare, cases, a person's views do make him or her unsuitable for their jobs. I am not arguing that this is the case with Tim Hunt - just that things are not always black and white.

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Dahlen 22 June 2015 11:31 AM
63%

The key variable is whether he or she is outspoken or closeted about these views. I've had the misfortune to have a teacher who'd put most neoreactionaries to shame, in beliefs as well as in the associated vices and character flaws. He seemed to come to work just to check out 15-year-olds. We spent our classes getting lectured on far-right politics instead of learning, taking turns getting disparaged by him, goaded into buying the more expensive version of textbooks from him. Girls were graded by the amount of cleavage. I've fought for years to get that man out of education... to no avail, because the parents (yes, the parents of the girls getting sexually harassed) were on his side, as well as the higher-ups in the school system.

Yes, mine is a strange and different country.

The thing is, he was just a singularly horrid creature, morally speaking. He knew his stuff alright, he could have been a good teacher if he at least tried to maintain a facade of professionalism. If he could STFU about his views, not treat everybody with contempt, and bother to teach and generally follow his job description and the law. But I knew the fellow to be too much of a scoundrel for me to aim for that in negotiation.

Not everybody is this rotten to the core, even among those who hold highly objectionable views. Some otherwise professionally valuable people can be negotiated with. We pay you, you remain ideologically neutral when acting in your capacity as an X. A sort of a Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy with extremist beliefs. In the end it's behaviour that's objectionable, not thoughts.

There's something telling me that people who want to fire men like Tim Hunt have never fought battles as hard as this one, otherwise they might have had a better-calibrated sense of outrage.

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melian 22 June 2015 06:48 PM
70%

Perhaps the best way to solve this type of problem is by privatizing education system and giving students vouchers. The government won’t restrict educators’ freedom of speech, but students/parents won’t have to tolerate any such teachers in their school.

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Alice 23 June 2015 03:20 PM
68%

One problem with this is this will probably mean firing on the basis of what the person says and using mob justice will be easier.

Another problem is that in universities, research and education go hand in hand. I believe that we need to have government-funded universities, that promote research in fundamental science, which may not be immediately applicable in practice and hence won't find much funding from private sector. Since research and education in Universities usually need to be done together, there is no escape to having a large government-owned and sponsored education system (and this is not necessarily a bad thing).

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Alice 23 June 2015 05:47 AM
67%

Interesting. I think the key variable is the person's actions: does this person in practice discriminate or harm students in any other ways. Unfortunately, these things are subtle, and are often hard to prove or figure out. But when the person in question is stupid enough to voice such beliefs aloud, this is an opportunity to catch such people. I would still prefer to just see this treated as a just red flag, and have the person's professional conduct thoroughly investigated before reaching the decision. But I don't understand why we should just ignore clear signs that a person may be unsuitable for his or her job.

At the same time, I am a strong supporter of free speech, and I really don't want to be in a situation where people are afraid to speak their mind. So it is hard for me to make up my mind on this one. But between just ignoring this, and doing the "mob justice", there is a lot of room to other more reasonable ways to take care of such incidents.

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Dahlen 23 June 2015 10:08 AM
64%

- What I'm saying is, you live in a Western country, shit like the occurrence in the title question happens in Western countries, shit of a diametrically opposite kind happens in Eastern countries, and if the two cultural poles of the world listened to each other more, perhaps they'd arrive closer to the right method to approach such problems, collectively.

- Either these things are subtle, or the signs that a person may be unsuitable for their job are clear. There is a continuum, agreed, but at the same time there's no such thing as a "clear subtle sign".

- Not having politically incorrect views is a higher bar than not indicating them in any way in one's professional position, which is a higher bar than not acting on them in one's professional position. A good closet keeps in discriminatory behaviour as well as speech. At least that's the way I see it.

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VoiceOfRa 26 June 2015 07:59 PM
57%


What if a professor expresses clearly anti-semitic, anti-Muslim, anti-black or anti-white views? Would you trust such a professor to teach students from diverse backgrounds? (and objectively evaluate them via grades, reference letters etc).


What about say anti-theist views? What about anti-creationist views?


What if a physics teacher in your daughter's high school says he doesn't believe girls can be good at physics.


What if the gym teacher in your midget child's high school says he doesn't believe midgets can be good at basketball?


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Alice 27 June 2015 08:37 AM
67%

The question is whether your views translate into how you treat your students. Anti-theist/anti-creationist views usually don't, because these are views about ideas, not about people. Views about abilities of different races/genders often do. Being outspoken about these views often also has direct effect on your students, for whom you are the natural figure of authority and a role model.

What if the gym teacher in your midget child's high school says he doesn't believe midgets can be good at basketball?


This is completely different because we know it is practically impossible for a midget person to compete with tall people in basketball. Like in some sports women can't compete with men - this is just the laws of nature. This does not mean though that a highly athletic midget/woman should be discouraged from pursuing this sport. It is completely different in sciences. We know for a fact that there are highly successful female physicist, who managed to succeed despite having to struggle with a much more hostile environment than their male colleagues (e.g. Marie Curie). This is not impossible to achieve and girls should not be discouraged from trying - they should be encouraged, in the same way as boys.


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VoiceOfRa 27 June 2015 01:26 PM
59%


The question is whether your views translate into how you treat your students. Anti-theist/anti-creationist views usually don't, because these are views about ideas, not about people.


But anti-Muslim views are about people? Furthermore, there have also been serious cases of anti-theist views affecting how teachers treat religious students. I'm not even going to get into what happens when professors and students have differing political views.


This is completely different because we know it is practically impossible for a midget person to compete with tall people in basketball. Like in some sports women can't compete with men - this is just the laws of nature.


What do you mean by "practically"? Why doesn't the fact that women have a hard time competing with men in physics also count as a law of nature? To attempt to steelman you're position are you trying to argue that there is some probability, X, such that if a member of the group has more then X probability of success (at what level?) then we should pretend she's as likely to succeed as a non-member. What is the value of X and why?


We know for a fact that there are highly successful female physicist, who managed to succeed despite having to struggle with a much more hostile environment than their male colleagues (e.g. Marie Curie).


Marie Curie is a dancing bear. A male scientist who did what she did would not be anywhere near as famous. She is famous for being on the three person team that discovered Radium; challenge: without looking it up name the two men on that team.


This is not impossible to achieve and girls should not be discouraged from trying - they should be encouraged, in the same way as boys.


By that logic should we encourage students to play the lottery because it it "not impossible" for them to win?
... read more


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melian 28 June 2015 08:08 AM
72%

Success at science is not a random thing, but a child's individual IQ is a better proxy for scientific ability than either race or gender. Is there a reason to discourage a child who demonstrates very high math skills from pursuing a career at science if he or she belongs to a group with low average math skills?


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VoiceOfRa 28 June 2015 11:03 AM
58%

No, but Alice seems to think we shouldn't even have teachers who know about the relationship between race/sex and IQ.

Also since IQ isn't a perfect proxy for scientific ability by Alice's logic we shouldn't even discourage low IQ students from pursuing careers in science.


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melian 29 June 2015 01:39 PM
70%

Having read all the comments, I see the gap between Alice and your positions. However, this gap may be not as large as one would think based on the tone of your comments.

If I understand correctly, both of you agree that students who demonstrate high ability should be encouraged to pursue careers in science regardless of their race, gender etc. Both of you agree that there may differences in average ability between different groups. Where you differ is in the question of how outspoken an educator can or should be about those differences.

Personally, I do not see the latter question as a pure black and white issue. On the one hand, free speech has a tremendous value to the society. Letting the government to decide what is acceptable for a professor to say in public is extremely dangerous. On the other hand, I see how teachers who are outspoken about their negative views towards a certain group can be less than optimal for their job. Imagine a teacher who likes to talk at every opportunity about how taller people are smarter than the short ones (statistically there is indeed a correlation between height and IQ). If you happened to have a short kid, would you want this person to be the child’s teacher?

I think there is no perfect solution to this. School privatization might help, though, by letting parents, rather than government, to choose what views are acceptable for their children’s teachers.


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VoiceOfRa 29 June 2015 06:02 PM
63%

I think you're steelmanning Alice's position. She wasn't just talking about what it is acceptable for teachers to say but what it is acceptable for teachers to believe.


On the other hand, I see how teachers who are outspoken about their negative views towards a certain group can be less than optimal for their job.


Depends on the context. Is the teacher talking about this to her class everyday, or defending herself against charges of racism for why she failed a higher proportion of blacks?


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Alice 22 June 2015 06:25 AM
65%

It's not just hiring decisions. A professor can influence the careers of his students in many ways. In many cases, he can make or break their careers. For example, the recommendation letters he writes for graduating students can make a huge difference in their careers. I would worry very much if I discovered that the head of my lab is prejudiced against women. But moving to other labs etc is often not an option at this stage.

In this specific case, I agree that this looks like an over-reaction, and there is no evidence that he actually did discriminate against women. I am also strongly against punishing people for thought crimes, and the current tendency of mob justice worries me a lot. That said, I don't think it's completely black and white, and I can see a situation where something a person says can make him or her unsuitable for his or her current position, especially in the area of education.

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ChristianKl 22 June 2015 07:43 AM
64%

Plenty of people who discriminate are smart enough to not publically speak about the fact that they discriminate.

Being willing to make a joke of the nature that Tim Hunt made in front of an audience of female journalists and scientists is evidence that Tim Hunt believes that he nobody in the audience has an interest of attacking him for being misogynist.

Punishing people for this kind of speech simply results in smart people who actually are discriminating not making those kinds of remarks openly. You prevent open debate.
I don't think you get less discrimintion by forbidding people from openly talking about it in academia.

When it comes to high school teachers, I would prefer teachers who promote the growth mindset so there's a stronger case for restriction of speech.

Freedom of expressing controversial ideas is important for academics while it isn't for high school teachers.

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Fwiffo 23 June 2015 09:14 AM
53%

How you say and about what you say can be different things. It's not a good idea to approach a tense matter with the method of joke. Openness to topics doesn't mean you can formulate your ideas with your left hand.

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ChristianKl 23 June 2015 01:33 PM
65%

Whether something is a good idea or whether something should be ground for firing are two different issues.

Apart from that heavily filtering what you say does reduce openness.

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